Forms of Friendship
by Maygra de Rhema

THIS IS R RATED for adult situations. Yeah, so Mac & Methos aren't mine and neither are the water effects...a little UST, some implied slash but only a helping hand from a friend but nothing graphic...and if anybody knows the identity of the Challenger please let the Watchers know so they can strike another one from the books.

Don't repost without permission, all kudos to Rysher: Panzer/Davis and a nod to spin-off girl.

"New look for you," MacLeod commented as he set his own gear down next to Methos' and stripped down to the loose shirt and trousers he had worn for this lesson. Methos was dressed similarly in a tannish colored loose tunic and a lighter version of what could have been a karate gi.

"Jeans are a little tight for the stretches," Methos said with a faint smile. He had obviously already begun, there was a peace and calm to his face Mac had not seen in far too long. Without another word MacLeod settled next to his friend on his knees as Methos was and began to breath. It took not very long for the two men to be breathing in sync, their concentration reaching out to both encompass and acknowledge the sounds around them: The faint rustling of leaves, the soft murmur of the stream that rumbled slowly along its course close by.

Mac was caught by a heightened sense of smell as well, the barest wafting of meadow grass and damp earth, of the soap and mild tang of sweat that sourced itself from his friend. Comfortable, soothing perceptions.

The basic forms were easy and slow, Mac letting Methos set the pace for the smooth movements of arms that were as much language and dance as exercise. He kept his own movements fluid and smooth, continuous as they moved through the first sets but he could not help but notice the grace with which his partner moved. They were both still kneeling and so accustomed was Mac to seeing Methos slouched or sprawled, the erect posture and absolute control threatened to take his breath away.

Not the point of the exercise, MacLeod, he had to remind himself with a small grin and moved only a fraction of a second behind Methos to brace one foot and kneel on the opposite leg to continue the forms. Closing his eyes he followed the form, knowing without seeing that he and Methos were once more moving in perfect sync, each movement precise and flowing as they rocked back and then forward, coming to their feet. Without word or sight he felt his palms meet Methos' lightly and opened his eyes.

The gold-green eyes were smiling, the faintest flush to his friend's pale cheeks. "It's been a long time since I've had anyone to practice with that was so good," Methos said, his gratitude offered by a firmer pressure against Mac's hands before they dropped their arms. "You studied with Juru while in Malaysia, didn't you?"

Mac grinned and nodded. "Not at first...I was too..." His smile faltered. "Angry...lost. He came to me after about six months and asked if I would help him."

Methos nodded, dropping his gaze. "He's good at that. Well. Enough or second forms?" he asked, changing the subject before it became too painful for either of them.

"Second fo...." Mac started to say only to be hit by the intruding presence of another Immortal. Methos felt it as well, the relaxation in his body vanishing on a quick intake of breath.

"Student and teacher -- now which is which?" He emerged from the tree line, from the direction of the park. Long and lanky with a feline grace to his movements and his sword already out.

"No quarrel," Mac said, stepping slightly in front of Methos without realizing he had done so.

"Don't need one. One or both -- you know the drill."

"We have no fight with you," Mac said again.

"Friends? You know there was some idiot called Methos who was preaching the same thing. Are you one of his? Both of you? I hear someone took his head. You would think the oldest of us would have more sense."

"You would think," Methos said dryly. "No talking you out of this?"

"Well, if you can manage to get a sword to my throat, I might be willing to talk -- but until then, no," the man said. "You have 'til the count of three to pick up a sword - either of you. First one up gets the fight. Three - two - one!"

Methos was moving before he hit two, Mac lunging in the opposite direction, toward his gear and the kenji stick thrust through his pack. By the final count Methos realized Mac had not brought his sword.

Their challenger was laughing as the two men faced him, one with a bamboo sword the other with the heftier weight of steel. "You win," he said to Methos and attacked.

"Shit!" Methos snapped out, blocking the attack, almost going down under the first blow. His challenger was of the slash and hack variety of fighters, no finesse, no style and completely unpredictable. A feral smile touched Methos' lips -- his kind of fighting. His opponent realized the same fact about the time Methos acknowledged it, face set as he realized he was being met thrust for thrust and slash for slash.

MacLeod watched tensely, his fingers gripping the kenji until they ached. He had no doubts of Methos' skill or of his determination but it still tore at him to be forced to watch while his friend fought for his life to no point. He almost started forward as he saw Methos slip on the stream bank, bare feet providing no purchase on the slick ground. The challenger followed him, driving them both into the water.

And if Methos lost? What then? Mac thought in a panic as the slenderer Immortal stumbled again on the uneven footing. He moved in, the non-interference rule fading like a whisper from him. Methos was soaked to the skin, the loose clothing clinging to his frame in heavy folds, accenting every line of muscle and those muscles were straining. The cloth had become more hampering, clinging to him and binding his arms to some extent.

Another swing and Methos ducked, barely missing having his arm caught by his opponent's blade. As it was, crimson stained the pale cloth at his side and he faltered. MacLeod had seen this before, but there was no second blade for Methos to produce, no tricks he could call on.

Panic set in an Mac stepped into the water as Methos blocked another thrust. "Mac, don't you dare!" he snapped out and pushed at his opponent who whirled, eyeing MacLeod warily.

"My fight!" Methos snarled, but he was panting and in some pain. Mac stopped, looking at him helplessly.

"An honorable opponent," the challenger said, turning back to Methos, confusion on his face at the older Immortal's bitter laugh.

"Not at all. I am worried about him, not you," Methos said and attacked, putting more force and style into his movements than he had shown before.

His challenger was caught off guard and confused as his opponent presented him with a new style and more energy and skill than he had thus shown. He realized the faltering clumsy responses had been an act about a half second before he Methos had him on his knees in the stream. "I don't feel much like talking now," Methos said softly and swung.

MacLeod crouched on the bank as the stream became less passive, altering to a roiling torrent as the body fell and the Quickening rose to envelop Methos first in a caress of blue-white light, as gentle as a breeze. The gold-green eyes met his for one long moment before that energy suddenly changed, driving down with force enough to send Methos to his knees again. The cracks of Lightning began almost immediately looking to ground anywhere there was space: the water, the bank. Methos. His body went rigid as a soundless scream sought to escape him, spine arched impossibly tightly as the energy seemed to fill him, turning the pale skin almost translucent. The last burst drove him face down into the water and Mac was moving before the steam had even settled, large hands gripping the rock hard shoulders as he knelt, turning Methos over and lifting him to rest against Mac's chest.

His skin was ice cold, goosebumps rising on the pale skin. With gentle hands Mac pushed the wet hair back, using his own sleeve to dry his friend's face as Methos started to regain some cognizant sense of where he was. With a ragged gasp he gripped Mac's arms then almost curled into himself as Mac tried to check the wound in his side, frowning as the red line began to fade until the only sign of the injury was the faded bloodstain on the fabric surrounding the tear. Every sleek muscle was trembling with tension, the sodden clothes making his friend look even slimmer than he was, outlining his form like a bas-relief. The pulse in his throat was jumping wildly as Mac tried to soothe the worst of it, feeling the slightest release in the tension in Methos' back and shoulders.

The other effects of the quickening were suddenly apparent through the sheerness the wet cloth caused. A strong grip around Methos' waist got them both to their feet, Methos shaking in reaction and cold. The water was frigid but not enough to still the erection the Quickening had produced. For the moment Mac ignored that, guiding and steadying his friend back onto dry ground, pulling the blanket Methos had brought from the grass to wrap it around his friend.

Still tense, Methos nevertheless offered no resistance as Mac pulled at the wet tunic to dry his chest and arms, recovering his discarded sweater and helping Methos pull it over his head. The heavy fabric warmed him some and the shivers eased.

"I've got jeans in my bag," Methos managed to murmur, all his concentration on trying to still his body's reaction. Mac got him the requested clothes, then took them back when Methos faltered in trying to strip off the soaked gi pants. Methos caught his wrist as Mac gripped the waistband. "D...don't. You might start something you don't want to finish," he said hoarsely.

"Or maybe I can help you finish what can't be avoided," Mac said gently, and reached again, a faint smile on his lips at the shock in the older Immortal's eyes. "Besides, I don't think you can get your jeans on over that," he added with a chuckle.

Methos could not even protest as the quick, sure hands stripped him and one of Mac's hands closed with equal sureness over his aching groin. Leaning into the Highlander's strength, Methos gave up any further protests, his own hand covering Mac's as he was brought quickly to release, almost falling again as the built up tension left him in that simple act of friendship. Nor did he protest as Mac silently cleaned him then steadied him once more as he did put on his jeans, the denim banishing the last of the chill from his skin.

"All right?" Mac asked as he stripped off his own sodden workout clothes for a pair of sweats. He left the tunic on.

Methos nodded, sitting once more on the grass, arms hooked around his knees, a faint flush on his cheeks. "I...thank you..." He murmured looking distinctly uncomfortable.

"Don't," Mac said a little more sternly than he had meant to sound. "You said you were more worried about me. Why?"

"Because the last head you took was Richie's," Methos said softly. "Because you won't carry your sword. Because...I could handle it. I wasn't sure you could...or would," he said and glanced up at Mac's face expecting anger and saw something else entirely.

"You told me once I couldn't fight your battles for you..."

"I didn't want you to...I thought...but I let you. On more than one occasion. I thought it time I returned the favor," Methos said lamely. Mac settled on the grass next to him.

"Are we friends, Methos?" Mac asked calmly.

"Yes. I don't have another word for what we are," Methos said.

"Or what we could be?" Mac queried smiling faintly again as the color rose in the pale cheeks again. Without a word, his arm encircled Methos' shoulder and pulled him close. "Well, then, my friend. As friends could we stop keeping score? And let the rest find its own course?"

Methos chuckled and nodded. "I always did hate one up-man-ship. What now, Highlander?"

"Now, we go home, let you get some sleep and see what two friends can find to do on a Paris night?" Mac said with a grin that promised nothing and everything all at once.

Promise enough, Methos thought, as his friend rose and offered him a hand to get to his feet.

"Don't die on me, Methos," Mac said softly as he was pulled close. Then Mac released him and gathered his things.

"That promise works both ways, Mac," Methos said seriously and was rewarded with a devastating smile.

"I know."